2009 Women to Watch: Lori Dickerson FouchéPosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.
Lori Dickerson Fouché has been in the insurance industry for more than 17 years, most recently serving as president of the commercial insurance business at Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., to which she was promoted in August 2008 after joining Fireman's in 2006. She is responsible for the growth and profit of the business and works closely with underwriting, product management, sales and marketing, finance, operations and claims. In addition to her career, Ms. Fouché has worked to advance the role of women and minorities in the insurance industry and business in general. She has served on the women's development committee at Fireman's and, during her previous employ with Chubb Corp., was co-chairman of the 2004 Chubb Women's Leadership Conference.
Advice for women entering the field: I don't think there's a better time to get into insurance than there is right now. When you look at the demographics of the insurance industry, during the next several years we're going to see some attrition just based on retirements. So there are many job opportunities that are coming. When you look at the economy and you see jobs shrinking, the insurance industry, particularly on the property/casualty side, is always going to be needed. As an industry, I think we are in great shape and a good one to be a part of, and I think there's a lot of diversity. There are a lot of roles available as the industry spans different skill sets and interests that people have. I think the opportunities are rich.
Best professional advice you've received: You are the best person to manage your career. Nobody manages your career better than you. You are the one that needs to decide what you want, what skills you need to obtain and where you want to go with those skills. Then it's about working with people to get where you want to go with your career. Also, I would say that you shouldn't be too proud to ask for help. We always want to be self-sufficient in what we do and want to portray that we know what we're doing and that we're capable of handling our jobs, but there are times when you need to back off and ask for help.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: For the most part, unless you have family that was in insurance, it's a very rare day that someone aspires to be in the insurance industry. To that end, it is not my aspiration, but I did start as an intern for an insurance company when I was about 18 years old. I knew I wanted to be in the international space, and I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I started with an insurer (Chubb & Son Inc.) in the international area doing reverse flow underwriting. I did have aspirations to be a lawyer through the first couple of years post-graduation from college. But when I graduated, it was a tougher economy and I already had a job (with Chubb & Son) so I thought I would just make some money to help put myself through law school. But as time went by and I started seeing opportunity and enjoying what I was doing more and more, it became something that I ultimately stuck with.
Your professional role model: I don't really have one role model. I tried to pick the best attributes that many people have had and really considered those as to how I incorporated those in my own style. I have current and past bosses that have been really good at analytics and who have really understood the human element and how to lead people. One of my favorite quotes (from a colleague) is, “If you think you're leading people and you turn around and no one is following you, you're really just taking a walk.” People who have helped in that regard have really kind of been role models for me.
Best book you've read recently: A couple of months ago I read "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is about Abraham Lincoln and his administration. My father gave it to me and I'm a history major, so I like to read about those types of things. I found it to be very interesting and a good book. It talks about his leadership and how he built his team and how his chief lieutenants were foes of his; and you think about his experiences in running the country, his leadership qualities, and how he did it and what was important to him.
Phone or e-mail and why: For different reasons, I like both. I like e-mail for short updates. It helps me stay abreast of what's going on and I like it so I can be on call, and it allows me to stay connected regardless of the time. But e-mail is really limiting for a dialogue and relationship building. I prefer phone calls when there is a gray area of some kind and the conversations can be more productive. They both have their place. It's just knowing when to use which one.